United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. BEATTY United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is currently before the Court on a number of
post-trial motions filed by the parties (Docs. 241, 248, 249,
255, 258, 259, 260, and 261). Before addressing any of the
motions, a brief summary of the proceedings in this case is
Jose Luera filed this civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 asserting constitutional claims against
the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections,
various prison officials at Stateville Correctional Center
and Menard Correctional Center, and Wexford Health Sources,
Inc. regarding his placement in a cell with a mentally ill
inmate who violently beat him and caused substantial physical
and mental injuries and the allegedly deficient medical care
he received thereafter (Doc. 82).
only claims remaining at the time of trial were
Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim for failure to protect
against Defendant Douglas Lyerla, a correctional major at
Menard, and Plaintiff's claim against Defendant John
Baldwin for injunctive relief related to his medical care
(see Doc. 199). Plaintiff's claim against Major
Lyerla was tried to a jury, which returned a verdict in favor
of Lyerla on November 20, 2018 (Doc. 232). Plaintiff's
claim for injunctive relief was tried to former Magistrate
Judge Stephen Williams on December 13, 2018 (Doc. 236).
Following the Plaintiff's presentation of his
case-in-chief, Judge Williams granted the defense's Rule
52(c) motion for judgment as a matter of law on
Plaintiff's request for injunctive relief (Doc 235).
Judge Williams issued a written order memorializing his
ruling that same day (Doc. 235). Judgment was entered in the
case on December 17, 2018 (Doc. 238).
January 16, 2019, Plaintiff, by and through his
court-appointed counsel, filed a “Post-Trial
Motion” but neglected to file the supporting memorandum
(see Doc. 241). Defendants nevertheless filed a
response in opposition to the motion, asserting in part that
Plaintiff's motion was untimely (Doc. 244). This prompted
Plaintiff to file his own pro se Motion to Reopen
Time to File Notice of Appeal and pro se Motion for
Relief from Judgment (Docs. 248, 249). Three days later,
Plaintiff's counsel filed a motion seeking to withdraw
from the case based on Plaintiff's assertion in his
pro se motions (Doc. 250). It was at this point that
the Court discovered Plaintiff's counsel never filed the
memorandum referenced in the post-trial motion.
Plaintiff's counsel was ordered to file the memorandum,
his motion to withdraw was denied, and he was ordered to
remain in the case to finish the briefing that he started on
the motion for new trial (Doc. 253).
counsel filed the memorandum (Doc. 254), along with a motion
asking the Court to reconsider the denial of his motion to
withdraw (Doc. 255). The motion to reconsider remains
pending. Defendants then filed an amended response in
opposition to the original post-trial motion (Doc. 256), to
which Plaintiff's counsel filed a reply (Doc. 257).
Plaintiff then filed several more pro se motions
(Docs. 258, 259, 260). Defendants responded by filing a
motion to strike (Doc. 261).
Motion for Reconsideration of Motion to Withdraw and Request
for Substitution of New Counsel (Doc. 255)
Court will begin its discussion with Plaintiff's
counsel's renewed request to withdraw. Attorney Kyler
Stevens from the firm Kurowski Schultz was recruited to
represent Plaintiff (Doc. 125). Attorney Stevens entered his
appearance along with two other attorneys from his firm:
Matthew Clyde and Patricia Simons (Docs. 127, 136, 147).
Although Mr. Stevens is the only one who formally moved to
withdraw his representation (Docs. 250, 255), the Court
construes his request as a request for Mr. Clyde and Ms.
Simons to withdraw as well. Now that all of the briefing is
finished on the original post-trial motion (Doc. 241, 254,
256, 257), counsel's request to withdraw is granted.
While things ended on a sour note for recruited counsel, the
Court nevertheless wants to thank Mr. Stevens, Mr. Clyde, and
Ms. Simons for their time and service on this matter.
Plaintiff's pro se Motion for Relief from
Judgment (Doc. 249)
motion, which was filed on March 11, 2019, Plaintiff asks the
Court for relief from the Order dismissing the motion for a
new trial that was filed by his attorneys (Doc. 249). He
asked the Court to appoint him new counsel and allow them to
file a motion for a new trial (Id.). However,
Plaintiff was mistaken that the Court had dismissed the
post-trial motion filed by his attorneys. At the time
Plaintiff filed his pro se motion on March 11, 2019,
the post-trial motion had not been ruled on and remained
pending. Therefore, Plaintiff's pro se motion is
moot. Even if that weren't the case, the Court cannot
allow Plaintiff to file an untimely motion for a new trial
under Rule 59(a). Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(2) (“A court must
not extend the time to act under Rule . . . 59(b), (d), and
(e) . . . .”). This motion is denied.
Plaintiff's pro se Omnibus Motion for Equitable
Relief (Doc. 258)
pro se motion was filed by Plaintiff on June 5,
2019. Plaintiff provided his case materials to a “PAL,
” which stands for Prisoner At Law and appears to be a
fancier way of saying “jailhouse lawyer.” The PAL
has apparently determined there are a number of deficiencies
in the motions currently pending before the Court. The PAL
asks the Court to withhold ruling on the post-trial motion
filed by Plaintiff's counsel (Doc. 241) so that he can
file a new pro se motion for new trial, to withhold
ruling on Plaintiff's pro se motions at Docs. 248 and 249
so that the PAL can supplement them, and for leave to file an
objection to the bill of costs.
Court did not immediately rule on the “Omnibus
Motion” and so the PAL filed a pro se
“Motion for Leave to File And Decision On Pro Se
Objection and Response to Bill of Costs” on July 25,
2019 (Doc. 259). The PAL then filed a pro se
“Motion for Leave to file and Decision on Pro Se
Supplemental Motion for New Trial” on August 5, 2019
(Doc. 260). Given these latter two filings, the Court
considers the request for relief in the “Omnibus
Motion” to be moot.
Plaintiff's Motion for New Trial (Doc. 241)
the original post-trial motion filed by Plaintiff's
recruited counsel on January 16, 2019. In this motion,
Plaintiff's counsel argues that he is entitled to a new
trial because the instruction given to the jury regarding the
personal involvement of Defendant Lyerla was improper and the
jury verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence
(Doc. 254). Plaintiff further argues that the judgment as a
matter of law on his claim of injunctive relief was against
the manifest weight of the evidence (Doc. 254).
post-trial motion invokes both Rule 50 and Rule 59 as grounds
for relief (Doc. 241; Doc. 254). However, the memorandum in
support of the motion only discusses Rule 59 and does not
even mention Rule 50, let alone provide the legal standard
for Rule 50 or an argument tailored to the specific grounds
for relief under Rule 50 (Doc. 254). Additionally, because
Plaintiff did not make a motion under Rule 50(a) during
trial, he cannot now bring a post-trial motion under Rule
50(b). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 50, commentary to 2006
Amendment (“Because the Rule 50(b) motion is only a
renewal of the preverdict motion, it can be granted only on
grounds advanced in the preverdict motion.”).
Therefore, to the extent Plaintiff is seeking relief under
Rule 50, the motion is denied.
motion for a new trial under Rule 59 must be filed no
later than 28 days after the entry of judgment.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(b). This deadline cannot be extended.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(2). Final judgment was entered in this case
on December 17, 2018 (Doc. 238). Plaintiff therefore had
until Monday, January 14, 2019 to file his post-trial motion.
However, it was not filed until January 16, 2019-two days
argues that an untimely Rule 59 motion should be treated as a
Rule 60 motion (Doc. 257). That is true under Seventh Circuit
precedent. Justice v. Town of Cicero, Ill., 682 F.3d
662, 665 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing Talano v. Nw. Med.
Faculty Found., Inc., 273 F.3d 757, 762 (7th Cir.
2001)). See also Blue v. Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers
Local Union 159, 676 F.3d 579, 583 (7th Cir. 2012)
(treating untimely Rule 59(a) motion for new trial as a Rule
60). However, “[a] Rule 60(b) motion permits relief
from judgment [only] when it is based on one of six specific
grounds listed in the rule.” Talano v. Northwestern
Med. Faculty Found., 273 F.3d 757, 762 (7th Cir.
2001). “Rule  and Rule 60(b) will
retain their distinct characters, and litigants should not
expect to employ our rule as a Trojan horse for sneaking what
are actually tardy Rule  motions into the courtroom under
the guise of Rule 60(b).” United States v.
Deutsch, 981 F.2d 299, 302 (7th Cir. 1992)
Plaintiff does not specify the grounds for relief under Rule
60(b) (see Docs. 241, 254, 257). Of the six discrete
grounds spelled out in Rule 60(b), the only ones that might
apply to Plaintiff are Rule 60(b)(1), which allows relief on
account of “mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or
excusable neglect, ” and Rule 60(b)(6), the catchall
provision that permits a court to reopen a judgment
“for any other reason that justifies relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1), 60(b)(6). Relief under either
provision, however, is an “extraordinary remedy . . .
granted only in exceptional circumstances.” Davis
v. Moroney, 857 F.3d 748, 751 (7th Cir. 2017) (quoting
Bakery Machinery & Fabrication Inc. v. Traditional
Baking, Inc., 570 F.3d 845, 849 (7th Cir. 2009)). Rule
60(b) was designed to address “situations where a
judgment is the inadvertent product of ‘special
circumstances and not merely the erroneous application of
law.'” Kennedy v. Schneider Elec., 893
F.3d 414, 419 (7th Cir. 2018), cert. denied, 139
S.Ct. 1294 (2019) (quoting Russell v. Delco Remy Div. of
Gen. Motors Corp., 51 F.3d 746, 749 (7th Cir. 1995)).
Consequently, “[t]he ground for setting aside a
judgment under Rule 60(b) must be something that could not
have been used to obtain a reversal by means of a direct
appeal.” Bell v. Eastman Kodak Co., 214 F.3d
798, 801 (7th Cir. 2000). Accord Banks v. Chicago Bd. of
Educ., 750 F.3d 663, 668 (7th Cir. 2014) (“The
narrow operation of this provision reinforces our interest in
barring the use of Rule 60(b)(6) as a substitute for direct
Plaintiff argues that he is entitled to a new trial because
an improper instruction was given to the jury and the
verdicts were against the manifest weight of the evidence
(Doc. 254). These arguments are grounds for reversal that can
and should be presented to the appellate court on direct
appeal and are thus precluded by the scope of Rule 60. Even
if the Court assumes that Plaintiff's Rule 59 motion was
timely or that his arguments fell within the scope of Rule
60, his motion would still be denied.
argues that the jury verdict in favor of Defendant Lyerla and
Judge Williams' decision in favor of Defendant Baldwin
were contrary to the evidence (Doc. 241, Doc. 254). Plaintiff
did not, however, include a narrative summary of the
testimony and other evidence presented at either trial
(see Docs. 241, 254, 257). Nor did Plaintiff's
counsel order a transcript of either proceeding, so none were
prepared. Consequently, the Court has no way to review
whether the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's
verdict or Judge Williams' decision. The motion must be
denied as to these arguments.
only other argument is that the personal involvement jury
instruction, as modified, was improper because it was
misleading to the jury (Doc. 254). The trial court is
afforded “substantial discretion with respect to the
precise wording of the instructions so long as the final
result, read as a whole, completely and correctly states the
law and conveys the correct law to the jury reasonably